Loess Glazier, Digital Poetics

January 21, 2010 at 1:30 am (Digital Lit)

One of the things that I found very interesting about Glazier’s book was his focus on and somewhat of a fascination with how we classify literature, and particularly poetry, even going so far as to list the three major systems that libraries use to classify their collections. However, I do have a problem with what Glazier says the purpose of classification is. He says, “The purpose of classification is to arrange information systematically.” (53) He then states that “one presumed reason” for classification is so that people can find things that are interesting to them, and he then continues with his point about the way in which search engines work (53). What I find troubling is that Glazier ignores the other reasons for classification, particularly the desire to classify objects so that they can be defined, and through definition, circumscribed. The last heyday of classification was in the Victorian era, as the British expanded their empire, they also took stock and classfied the flora and fauna that they found. This allowed the British to contain foreign-ness and otherness in systems that were developed by British people, and it allowed some of the strangeness and scariness of foreign places to be controlled through classification.  Especially on today’s internet where what content one has access too, and how fast that access is allowed to be and who decides and controls access is a rich and vital part of the debate, ignoring the containment aspects of classification seems to be being willfully ignorant. Glazier is writing in a time of, at least in some ways, greater net freedom, but it seems dangerous to let the consquences of that era carry into our own without critically examining them.

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